El Salvador is urging women to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 in order to avoid birth defects that stem from the Zika virus.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses. Health experts are unsure why the virus, which was first detected in Africa in 1947 but unknown in the Americas until last year, is spreading so rapidly in Brazil and neighboring countries.
According to an announcement from health officials, over 5,000 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been detected in El Salvador.
“We’d like to suggest to all the women of fertile age that they take steps to plan their pregnancies, and avoid getting pregnant between this year and next,” El Salvador’s Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control has also urged pregnant women to consider avoiding trips to El Salvador and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in which the virus carrying Aedes Mosquitoes live.
According to the World Health Organization, at least 20 countries and territories have had reported cases of the virus, including Puerto Rico, Panama, Barbados, Guatemala, Bolivia, Guadeloupe, and more.
The Zika virus has been documented as far back as the 1940s, though it only became a serious threat in Latin America in recent months.
Brazil has been the country hit hardest by the outbreak, with over 1 million cases.
Nearly 4,000 cases have been reported in which the Zika virus has caused defects in newborn babies, prompting countries including Jamaica, Colombia, and Honduras to urge women to avoid getting pregnant. El Salvador’s stance became the most extreme thus far when they asked women to avoid pregnancy until 2018.tweet